NFL picks, predictions against spread Week 9: Packers clip Chiefs; Steelers slam Bears; Cowboys, Patriots roll

There were some good lines to exploit in Week 8, and we crushed it with our picks and predictions against the spread. You know that means everything only gets a lot harder for the Week 9 schedule of games.

Las Vegas has a done great job of trying to trip us up with a lot challenging numbers involving the next slate of 14 contests. When the lines are blurred between favorites and pick ’ems, it’s particularly difficult.

But this is a fearless forecast, where every game must be navigated through and ultimately picked one way or another. Here’s diving right in to the fun, for entertainment purposes only:

(Game odds courtesy of FanDuel)

NFL POWER RANKINGS:
Packers catch Cardinals at No. 1; Saints, Steelers rise; Buccaneers, Browns drop

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NFL picks against the spread for Week 9

Game/Upset of the Week: Packers (+2.5, 54.5 o/u) over Chiefs

Sunday 4:25 p.m. ET, Fox

The Packers look more focused this season with Aaron Rodgers and Matt LaFleur. They can adjust their offense with running and passing based on their opponent. They also can play good situational bend-but-don’t-break defense to compensate for their injuries there. In short, they look more put-together than Kansas City, led by an elite quarterback who’s playing better than Patrick Mahomes. Kansas City will be less willing to run the ball than Green Bay will be with Aaron Jones as the centerpiece, and Jones can also do plenty of damage to help Davante Adams. The Packers’ ball-control sensibilities will help them again here, too, to limit the big plays and impact of Mahomes.

Pick: Packers win 31-27 and cover the spread.

Game of Midweek: Jets at Colts (-10.5, 46.5 o/u)

Thursday 8:20 p.m. ET, Fox, NFL Network, Amazon Prime Video

The Colts got sloppy with their offense against the Titans and lost, which fell on Frank Reich and Carson Wentz. That means an overcorrection to featuring plenty of Jonathan Taylor against a weak run defense but tricky overall pass defense. New York cannot slow down Taylor from scrimmage and he will set up a more comfortable outing for Wentz at home in prime time. Mike White and the Jets had their big moments against the Bengals, much like the previous big Titans upset. They’re bound for a letdown vs. a host needing a desperate rebound.

Pick: Colts win 27-14 and cover the spread.

Lock of the Week: Steelers (-6.5, 40 o/u) over Bears 

Monday 8:15 p.m. ET, ESPN

The Steelers are suddenly seeing things break in their favor in the AFC North. After a dangerous drop to 1-3, coach Mike Tomlin has gotten them back on track with the defense and running game combination. The schedule can keep them hot until a critical Week 12 rematch the Bengals. Chicago has shown some inconsistent flashes with Justin Fields, but on the road in Pittsburgh facing that crowd, against that defense is a difficult rookie assignment. The Bears’ defense is starting to fall apart in key areas and the Steelers will exploit it well with Najee Harris, Diontae Johnson and Chase Claypool.

Pick: Steelers win 24-13 and cover the spread.

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Texans at Dolphins (-7, 46.5 o/u)

Sunday 1 p.m. ET, Fox

The Texans might be getting Tyrod Taylor back to start at quarterback. They should stay in this game because of the Dolphins’ defensive woes allowing them to have some success running and passing. Tua Tagovailoa is leading more of grinding pass-heavy offense than a big-play one and Miami is incapable of running away with the game.

Pick: Dolphins win 24-20 but fail to cover the spread.

Broncos at Cowboys (-8.5, 49.5 o/u)

Sunday 1 p.m. ET, Fox

The Broncos are starting to see the wheels come off, despite the fact they got back to. 500 with a limping win over Washington. Teddy Bridgewater is cooling off and the running game will be contained by the Cowboys. Dallas should have Dak Prescott back to operate its offense at the usual high level and go back to throttling a visiting opponent with far less firepower.

Pick: Cowboys win 31-20 and cover the spread.

Vikings at Ravens (-5.5, 49.5 o/u)

Sunday 1 p.m. ET, Fox

The Vikings cannot get out of their own way in close games. Every contest has come down to one possession save for their thrashing of the Seahawks in Week 3. Minnesota lost to two previous AFC North opponents in the Bengals and Browns. The Ravens have the right way to exploit them after a bye with a running quarterback and dangerous downfield receivers. Kirk Cousins will see a much improved Ravens’ defense, the one that frustrated the Chargers in Week 6. John Harbaugh’s team has struggled with some finishes, too, but it will enjoy the purple reign with a stronger fourth quarter.

Pick: Ravens win 31-24 and cover the spread.

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Patriots (-3.5, 41 o/u) at Panthers 

Sunday 1 p.m. ET, CBS

Bill Belichick vs. Matt Rhule is really no contest. The Panthers’ offense is too limited in weaponry and the Patriots will have an easy time shutting down one key part of it, wide receiver D.J. Moore. On the flip side, the Patriots will be relentless in exploiting the Panthers’ run defense and keep Mac Jones out of harm’s way against an aggressive pass defense.

Pick: Patriots win 20-14 and cover the spread.

Bills (-14, 48.5 o/u) at Jaguars

Sunday 1 p.m. ET, CBS

The Bills made things interesting against the Dolphins before kicking it back into high gear for a division rout in Week 8. The Jaguars pleaded no contest early in Seattle with an atrocious performance after a bye. The Bills’ defense is a daunting rookie draw for Trevor Lawrence. The Jaguars’ pass defense got roasted for big pass plays against top wide receivers in Seattle and Buffalo can present the same problems with Josh Allen’s big arm. There should be a strong #BillsMafia contingent to help in #Duval.

Pick: Bills win 34-14 and cover the spread.

Browns at Bengals (-2.5, 46.5 o/u) 

Sunday 1 p.m. ET, CBS

The Battle of Ohio can always have wild and wacky results. This comes down to the fact Cleveland’s No. 1 overall pick QB Baker Mayfield isn’t right and Cincinnati’s No. 1 overall pick QB Joe Burrow is already one of the league’s best. Look for the Bengals’ defense to rebound from the Jets’ mess to take advantage of a sputtering Browns’ offense. On the flip side, the state of Browns’ pass defense isn’t good enough to slow down Burrow and his red-hot trio of wide receivers.

Pick: Bengals win 24-20 and cover the spread.

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Falcons at Saints (-6, 42.5 o/u)

Sunday 1 p.m. ET, Fox

The Falcons’ offense will continue to miss the dimension of a true dominant No. 1 wide receiver in Calvin Ridley. The Saints’ pass rush and coverage will make life rough on Matt Ryan, not letting down from what it did against Tom Brady. Whoever the Saints start at quarterback, they will move the ball per usual by spreading it around and deploying Alvin Kamara often.

Pick: Saints win 23-13 and cover the spread.

Raiders (-3, 47.5 o/u) at Giants 

Sunday 1 p.m. ET, CBS

The Raiders will be coming off a bye so they will be well rested for the road. The Giants will be coming off a short week, having made a tough trip to AFC West foe Kansas City on Monday night. This smells like a big-time trap game for Derek Carr, but the sudden versatility and multiplicity of the offense minus Jon Gruden will help. On the other side, the pass rush will rev up and allow the rest of the defense to be opportunistic against Daniel Jones.

Pick: Raiders win 30-20 and cover the spread.

Chargers (-2.5, 50 o/u) at Eagles

Sunday 4:05 p.m. ET, CBS

The Chargers’ biggest weakness is their run defense. The Eagles were committed to running more without Miles Sanders in Detroit, but that was tied to being guaranteed a positive game script. The Chargers will adjust with Justin Herbert in the passing game and not force things downfield, working the short-to-intermediate effectiveness with Austin Ekeler and Keenan Allen. Jalen Hurts will be a solid dual threat with Los Angeles’ secondary dealing with injuries, but he doesn’t have the same reliable depth to catch up with Herbert.

Pick: Chargers win 34-31 and cover the spread.

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Cardinals (-2.5, 46.5 o/u) at 49ers

Sunday 4:25 p.m. ET, Fox

The Cardinals will have used the mini bye to get all their key offensive pieces healthy again, led by Kyler Murray and DeAndre Hopkins. The 49ers’ secondary and linebacker corps can be exploited by deep passing games and mobile quarterbacks. San Francisco’s offense will come alive a lot more than the Week 5 battle of attrition between the two teams in Arizona. But the Cardinals, coming off their first loss, will spread their wings for more big plays from more sources.

Pick: Cardinals win 30-27 and cover the spread.

Titans at Rams (-7.5, 53.5 o/u)

Sunday 8:20 p.m. ET, NBC

The Titans might seem to be done without Derrick Henry, but Mike Vrabel, who continues to be underrated as a head coach will have his staff adjust to get enough from the running game to keep up Ryan Tannehill’s passing confidence. The Rams’ Sean McVay will know Matthew Stafford can light up the Titans’ secondary, but look for Vrabel to try to shorten the game. Los Angeles seems to be more gas-stepping on the road, so that sets up Tennessee for the back-door cover.

Pick: Rams win 31-24 but fail to cover the spread.

Vinnie Iyer’s 2021 picks:

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